How much call capacity does your business need?

Here's a quick checklist of key considerations for your contact center.
A phone with a purple capacity meter indicating you call capacity

Asking how much call capacity your business needs can be like guessing the length of a piece of string. It depends on a multitude of factors, from your use case to your risk appetite and your business recovery plans, not to mention external factors.

The global switch to remote working has only made the question that much harder to answer, effectively taking that piece of string and tossing it on a big spaghetti string pile.

If you’re in the business of communications, you’ll (hopefully) have a good handle on your needs. Similarly, for enterprises with dedicated telecom engineers, a certain amount of time will be spent on capacity forecasting to build up an accurate picture of your changing needs.

But if you have lingering questions about how much capacity your business needs, read on for a quick checklist. Luckily, there are tools that can help you ensure you paint an accurate picture.

Here are some of the key considerations we’ll be looking at:

Peak concurrent call requirements

When thinking about call capacity in the context of modern business communications, what we’re really talking about is the number of concurrent calls a business can handle at any one time. How many calls you need to handle at once will define how many channels you need.

In the legacy days of ISDN, channels were bundled in groups of 30, but with modern SIP trunking services, channels can be scaled more flexibly. The important thing to remember is that there is not a 1:1 relationship between your numbers of staff or contact center agents and the number of channels you require.

Because even the busiest organization won’t be able to saturate all of its channels all of the time. And so in a business of 1,000 employees, you might need just 300 channels if it’s only ever likely that 100-200 people will be on the phone at most, at any given time.

It’s why the word ‘concurrent’ was bolded at the start of this section. When it comes to channel capacity the first thing you need to gauge is what your maximum requirement for peak concurrent calls is likely to be.

Traffic patterns and seasonality of your use case

The number of peak concurrent calls will depend a lot on your use case. Do you need to handle a high frequency of short calls, or a fewer number of longer calls?

Think about a conferencing platform vs. a contact center.

Traffic usage for the conferencing platform will tend to follow the peaks and troughs of the working week. With an influx of concurrent call connections for that Monday morning stand-up, you’ll typically be looking at a smaller number of long calls running for an hour or maybe even longer.

On the other hand, if your channels are for a consumer-facing contact center, your call patterns will be more sensitive to seasonality in customer behavior, as well as your own sales and marketing activities. And you’ll likely see high volumes of calls that last for shorter periods of time.

The more you can analyze your historic call traffic patterns, the more you’ll be able to understand where the peaks and troughs lie.

Resilience and business continuity requirements

Another thing to consider is how much channel resiliency you require. For many organizations when immediate business continuity is critical in the face of an equipment failure, this means doubling up on capacity and pairing redundant primary and backup channels.

Similarly, the degree to which you load balance between multiple sites could also affect your channel requirements.

Bandwidth’s SIP trunking channels come with resiliency built-in because of the geo-redundant nature of our core network infrastructure, with our core points-of-presence operating in pairs so that if there is a problem with one, calls will automatically failover to the other, and traffic will be rerouted around any problem nodes.

The impact of this on the ROI of our customers is huge because they are no longer forced to double down on capacity to ensure they are covered in the unlikely event that their primary channels fail.

Willingness to scale capacity with peak calls

Depending on how often you come close to saturating your existing channel capacity, you may choose to scale it up ahead of any anticipated spikes – for instance adding temporary additional capacity in the run-up to the festive season.

Or you might come to the business decision that, in order to protect your business from the risk of fraud and for more reliable financial forecasting, you’re happy with a theoretical fixed upper limit on your call capacity that you don’t wish to exceed.

And if a call does come in when all your lines are busy, you’ll let them hear the busy tone or endeavor to call them back later. The point here is that these are both valid approaches depending on your use case and risk appetite.

Speed of provisioning new capacity

Even the most elastic provider will have limitations on the number of spare channels they have in stock. And once they run out? Well in most countries where legacy TDM-based infrastructure still prevails, you’re looking at the long lead-in times of potentially weeks or even months for new capacity.

The global COVID-19 response was a perfect example of this, as nearly every provider quickly saturated their capacity reserves in most markets, due to the sudden explosion in demand for remote working solutions, only to find the wait for additional bandwidth from their carrier partners could be long and torturous.

Of course, it’s also important to note that, in retrospect, the global infrastructure for voice and video services coped pretty well with that unforeseen strain, a few caveats aside.

And furthermore, this will hopefully fast-track the development of countries towards IP-based backbones, as our very own Mehmet Hussein postulated in a recent roundtable of industry experts on what comms in the future workplace will look like in a post-COVID world.

Flexible distribution of channels

Another consideration that can impact your channel requirements is the flexibility of your call capacity. Some providers will insist you use separate channels for each country in which you operate. Others, like Bandwidth, will let you effectively ‘virtualize’ these channels and pool them into capacity groups covering multiple countries in a given geographical region.

By sharing channels across multiple locations, you can tap into serious efficiency savings by playing off varying peaks and troughs in concurrent call capacity between different places. One popular approach we see among customers is to use ‘follow the sun’ logic to ensure that as one market goes offline at the end of the day, its channels can be dynamically redistributed to another country still in-office hours.

Taking this to the extreme, consider the following scenario. You need to handle up to 200 concurrent calls during office hours in your New York office on any given day. And a similar number in your Sydney office in Australia.

There is very little overlap here in terms of standard business hours. So instead of buying 400 channels and splitting them equally between the two locations, you can use our global channels, which are capable of being used in all 65+ of the countries we support.

Then you would only need half as many channels. And while New York sleeps, you could use their channels in Australia instead for greater operational efficiency and cost savings.

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